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Marines testify in abuse trial of drill instructor

November 08, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- Eleven young Marines testified before a military jury Wednesday that one of their drill instructors repeatedly forced them to drink so much water that they vomited, a practice specifically banned by Marine regulations.

Testimony about the use of the technique called "water-bowl incentive training" during boot camp came as military prosecutors portrayed Sgt. Jerrod Glass as a mean-spirited drill instructor who used his authority to kick, slap and degrade recruits who were too intimidated to fight back or report the alleged abuse.

Glass, 25, faces 10 counts of abuse that could result in 11 years in prison.

Incentive training is a Marine euphemism for punishment. Defense attorneys asserted that senior drill instructors either encouraged or condoned the tough treatment of recruits by Glass.

The defense also has suggested that although the rules may prohibit drill instructors from touching recruits except in specific circumstances -- such as showing them how to hold a rifle or navigate an obstacle course -- the reality is that a lot of rough, hands-on discipline goes on at the boot camp here.

A parade of witnesses spoke of abusive treatment by Glass. Some said that after they were made to gulp water from their canteens until they vomited, Glass then made them slide on their buttocks across the vomit-strewn floor of the barracks bathroom.

Lance Cpl. James Hammond said that after one water-bowl session, "We were ordered by Sgt. Glass to sit down on the vomit and move around."

Lance Cpl. Sean Daniel Miranda-Fitzgerald said he watched Glass repeatedly strike a recruit on the head with a metal tent pole when the recruit couldn't remember the combination to his foot locker. Glass screamed, "I'm going to make you ugly if you can't open up your lock," Miranda-Fitzgerald testified.

Marines testified that Glass once became enraged when he saw a recruit eating an apple turnover for dinner in the mess hall.

"We all had to chug water until it came out," said Lance Cpl. Robert Sandoval.

Pfc. Zachary Schaller said he was standing at a urinal when Glass pushed his head into the wall.

Pfc. Michael Baldridge said Glass pushed him head-first into a trash can.

Asked by defense and prosecution attorneys why they didn't report the abuse, the Marines testified that they thought it was a natural part of the grueling, 13-week boot camp regimen.

After one recruit did report that Glass hit a recruit with a tent pole, Glass was relieved of duty and an investigation was launched.

Ten of the 11 Marines also testified about a technique called the "hygiene stomp," in which Glass would stomp on their hygiene bags holding their razors, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The recruits would then have to buy new items at the depot store.

Although most of the Marines testified that only Glass engaged in the "hygiene stomp" and "water-bowl" punishments, some said that other drill instructors also were present. Two other drill instructors face lesser charges.

The case is being heard by a panel of three officers and three senior staff noncommissioned officers.

Glass' parents, Jerry and Barbara, defended their son in comments to reporters.

Jerry Glass, a retired sheriff's deputy from Maricopa County, Ariz., said of the water-bowl technique that "the very fact they have a name for it means that everybody knows about it and obviously some of it goes on."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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